Archive for Friday, May 11, 2007

$30K settlement negotiated in case involving BTK interviews

May 11, 2007

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— The state reached a $30,000 settlement in a case against two Massachusetts psychologists hired by the state to interview BTK serial killer Dennis Rader before his sentencing, Attorney General Paul Morrison said Thursday.

The 2005 lawsuit accused Robert Mendoza, a forensic neuropsychologist; Tali Walters, a forensic psychologist; and their company, Cambridge Forensic Consultants, of Chestnut Hill, Mass., of profiting from a videotape of an interview session with Rader. Segments of the interview were broadcast by "Dateline NBC."

The settlement ends the lawsuit filed by Morrison's predecessor, Phill Kline, seeking a refund of the $57,314 state contract and damages of more than $75,000. Morrison said the $30,000 will be divided among the families of the 10 victims.

"In this case, I believe that the families deserved whatever money came to the state through a settlement agreement," Morrison said. "It will not ease their pain, but will provide them some financial assistance."

Defense lawyer Steve Cavanaugh, of Topeka, said his clients are pleased to have the case behind them. Part of the agreement is that the lawsuit filed in Sedgwick County District Court can't be refiled.

"In the settlement, the defendants continued to deny there was any wrongdoing. There was no admission on their part," Cavanaugh said.

"Dateline NBC" aired the interview segments five days before Rader's sentencing in June 2005 to consecutive life sentences for 10 killings between 1974 and 1991. Rader talked about sexual fantasies that he said motivated him to kill and how he felt like a "star" when he pleaded guilty.

Rader, 62, lived in the Wichita suburb of Park Hill, where he was a city code inspector, when he was arrested in February 2005 - a year after resuming communications with police and the media that stopped years earlier. In earlier communications, he gave himself the nickname BTK - for "bind, torture and kill."

The lawsuit alleged the psychologists obtained a release from Rader to allow them to benefit financially from their involvement in his defense, breaching a contract with the state Board of Indigents' Defense Services, whose attorneys represented Rader.

"All I can say is we have denied any wrongdoing and denied we had anything to do with the tape getting to NBC," Cavanaugh said.

Morrison spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said an important part of the settlement was a requirement that the defendants return all their materials to the state and agree never to use them.

Cavanaugh said that already has been done.

"Very early on, my clients returned any materials that were part of the defense files of Dennis Rader," he said. "The settlement agreement called for us to return any material we had and we didn't because we had returned all of that."

Cavanaugh and the attorney general's office agreed that a settlement was the best solution. Neither was willing to discuss specifics of the negotiations.

"There were some unique legal issues that would have to be resolved. Let's just say it was one of those cases where settlement was good for both sides," he said.

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